Unofficial Canon on Applied Rationality 2016-02-15T13:03:09.532Z · score: 48 (41 votes)
Less Wrong Karma Chart Website 2016-02-15T12:36:12.932Z · score: 21 (24 votes)
Systems Theory Terms 2015-11-20T12:50:02.067Z · score: 14 (15 votes)
Useful Wiki and special pages 2015-09-13T04:33:34.176Z · score: 7 (8 votes)
What Exactly Do We Mean By "Rationality"? 2015-09-11T13:16:32.226Z · score: 4 (5 votes)
Rudimentary Categorization of Less Wrong Topics 2015-09-05T07:32:45.992Z · score: 19 (20 votes)
Rationality Compendium: Principle 2 - You are implemented on a human brain 2015-08-29T16:24:37.866Z · score: 8 (7 votes)
Sensation & Perception 2015-08-26T13:13:10.675Z · score: 1 (2 votes)
Rationality Compendium: Principle 1 - A rational agent, given its capabilities and the situation it is in, is one that thinks and acts optimally 2015-08-23T08:01:08.021Z · score: 7 (8 votes)
Rationality Compendium 2015-08-23T08:00:11.177Z · score: 10 (11 votes)
Truth seeking as an optimization process 2015-08-18T11:03:03.872Z · score: 6 (7 votes)
Mental Model Theory - Illusion of Possibility Example 2015-08-18T06:29:31.137Z · score: 3 (3 votes)
An overview of the mental model theory 2015-08-17T13:18:24.519Z · score: 13 (15 votes)
Less Wrong EBook Creator 2015-08-13T21:17:01.215Z · score: 45 (46 votes)


Comment by scottl on Wicked Problems · 2016-08-31T00:54:16.960Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, if you read further the above is described as taming the problem, which is bad, and is not solving it.

Taming a wicked problem is a very natural and common way of coping with it. Instead of dealing with the full wickedness of the problem, people simplify it in various ways to make it more manageable and solvable

While it may seem appealing in the short run, attempting to tame a wicked problem will always fail in the long run. The problem will simply reassert itself, perhaps in a different guise, as if nothing had been done; or worse, the tame solution will exacerbate the problem.

For a further explanation, see this document

There is a variety of ways that organisations try to tame wicked problems by handling them too narrowly. The most common way is locking down the problem definition. This often involves addressing a sub-problem that can be solved. If the problem is how to reduce violence in schools, for example, policy makers may focus on the more tractable, narrow problem of how to install metal detectors in school entrances. Or, if the problem is obesity in children, the more tractable but narrow problem could be removing unhealthy food from school canteens.

If policy and performance measures are limited to the sub-problem rather than the wicked problem, the problem can appear solved at least in the short-term. If the performance measure is that school canteens no longer offer unhealthy foods, for example, this may be achievable. An unintended consequence and a reassertion of the wicked problem may be that more children no longer buy their lunch at school canteens but instead miss lunch, save their lunch money, and buy junk food at the shops on the way home from school. This is also a good example of how a tame solution can exacerbate the problem—some children may now eat more unhealthy food than they did previously, and they miss their lunch! It is also another illustration of the unintended consequences that can result from interventions to address wicked problems. Unintended consequences tend to occur even more frequently if the problem has been artificially tamed, that is, it has been too narrowly addressed and the multiple causes and interconnections not fully explored prior to measures being introduced. This does not mean that at some stage in the policy formulation process it will not be necessary to identify the components of the wicked problem and possible practical solutions as part of a comprehensive and coordinated set of measures to address the problem. Obviously, the type of food offered in school canteens is part of the solution to childhood obesity. But this fragmentation of the wicked problem would ideally occur after all the interconnections and social complexities have been identified, discussed and addressed as part of a coordinated strategy.

Comment by scottl on Wicked Problems · 2016-08-16T12:04:05.096Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Quotes from post and this:

It took me a while to realise what a wicked problem was. It is evil. It's a challenge.

"Wicked" in this context means resistance to resolution, rather than evil.

I looked to cooking. No two ingredients are the same. Even if you are cooking a thing for the 100th time, the factors of the day, the humidity, temperature, it's going to be different.

This doesn’t sound like a wicked problem to me. I think a more “wicked” problem would be something like where you have to create a meal for a whole hall full of people. Now, you want to make a meal that everyone will like and you have a limited amount of resources, so you can’t create separate meals for everyone, but some people might be vegetarians, some might have allergies, some might want one type of meal in particular etc. There is a social complexity aspect to this problem. You cannot come up with a best meal because there are different stakeholders with strongly-held beliefs about what the problem is.

As a current example there is global warming and energy policy where people from the developed world have one set of views about what needs to be done, and the developing world has a completely different set of views. Nobody ‘owns’ the problem and no-one has a clear idea of how to work out the answers

The problem is not understood until after the formulation of a solution.

This is less about quantifying things and more about how requirements change or are only realized after the solution of the problem or part of the problem is implemented. For example, let’s say you are renovating a house and there are 10 people involved. Every time you change something like a chair you need to check that it still aligns with everything else. You might need to go through many iterations of having to change and rechange things.

Every solution that is offered exposes new aspects of the problem, requiring further adjustments to the potential solutions. There is no definitive statement of ‘the problem’: these problems are ill-structured and feature an evolving set of interlocking issues and constraints.

Wicked problems have no stopping rule.

How do you make sufficient stopping rules when there are conflicts over what the problem is?

Since there is no definitive ‘the problem’, there is also no definitive ‘the solution.’ The problem-solving process ends when you run out of resources such as time, money or energy, not when an optimal solution emerges.

Every solution to a wicked problem is a 'one shot operation.'

Developing models, trying scenarios etc. all take effort and send you down a particular track in terms of the conception of the problem. I think that wicked problems are like the conglomeration of multiple problems or people's conception of the problem. Each time you try to move forward on one part of the problem you kind of entrench yourself in seeing the problem that particular way and it also spawns new problems directly related to only that one conception of the problem.

Every attempt has consequences. This is the ‘Catch 22’ of wicked problems: you can’t learn about the problem without trying solutions, but every solution is expensive and has lasting consequences that may spawn new wicked problems.

Wicked problems have no given alternative solutions.

A host of potential solutions may be devised, but another host that are never even thought of. Thus it is a matter of creativity to devise potential solutions, and a matter of judgement to determine which should be pursued and implemented.

Comment by scottl on [CORE] Concepts for Understanding the World · 2016-07-17T03:33:15.849Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

For rationality related concepts, see this page

Comment by scottl on Wrong however unnamed · 2016-05-25T13:31:23.298Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yet how is a lichen 'more than the sum of fungus and alga'?

I don't know anything about lichen, but the below is what I assume "more than the sum of" in this context means:

"The symbiosis between the mycobiont and the photobiont creates an organism that is more than the sum of its parts, in other words, a lichen is an emergent property. Lets take a step back to examine this statement. On the one hand, neither the photobiont nor the mycobiont can withstand intense UV radiation, dessication, or extreme temperatures. But on the other hand, when the photobiont and mycobiont work together within the context of the lichen symbiosis, they create an organism that can withstand living in outer space – thats more extreme temperature and radiation (not to mention vacuum exposure) than is experienced on Earth! Lichen can even grow within rocks (endolithic lichen)! These are conditions that would kill a fungus or algae."

Comment by scottl on May Outreach Thread · 2016-05-13T16:25:03.828Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My wish is to create rationalist communities which are emotionally healthy, capable of action, and successful in life. […] Similarly how the Sequences are not about "how to think rationally during a meetup", but how to think rationally in general.

Is your wish actually to create rationalist communities which are emotionally healthy, capable of action, and successful in life so that you can become these things?

That people often try to avoid an extreme by running into the opposite extreme […] and it will be necessary not only to navigate them properly, but also make them notice when someone else promotes an extreme form of behavior.

I think the problem here is that the underlying problem that caused these people to take on an extreme view in the first place is still there and so when they do change their view they just tend to adopt another similarly extreme view. For example you mentioned PUA before; I have noticed that there are some men who have a strong level of neediness and so become ‘nice guys’ in the worst sense. They then read some of the PUA stuff and instead of doing good things like: developing genuine confidence, self-respect, a healthy sense of boundaries etc. they take a shortcut. They just change their perspective on women. The neediness is still there, however, and so they adopt a view where they objectify women. They essentially become ‘assholes’. In both the ‘asshole’ and the ‘nice guy’ cases there is a sense in which these people are giving up or altering part of who they are. This is what I think these people would actually need to solve if they were going to make an improvement in their situation.

But people are less unique than they imagine. For example, read Games People Play -- this book describes about a dozen patterns of dysfunctional human interaction, and most people are shocked to find their own story described there.

That’s probably true, but I was trying to say that unlike with cognitive errors, which most people can relate to, most people would only be able to relate to a few of the games and would find the others to be largely irrelevant for them.

one of my big concerns is that I think that successful groups sooner or later attract psychopaths who will try to get into positions of power and exploit the whole thing for themselves. No idea how to prevent this

I would expect that any group like the one you propose would have a very flat hierarchy of power. In fact, if people become dependent on the group or find themselves seeming to need the group to improve then the group probably isn’t working too well. You reduce dependency by maximizing the free exchange of information and the ability for people to improve outside of the group.

Comment by scottl on May Outreach Thread · 2016-05-12T13:38:48.751Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I have an idea about a sequence I would love to see, but only if it is written well (because it would be very easy and tempting!!! to make it wrong in various ways): Starting with scientifically describing human emotions, social behavior, and sexual behavior.

This seems way too broad. If it was done right, I don’t think it would end up being a single sequence.

How much have you looked into this already and do have any more concrete ideas on where you would want the sequence to go?

Progressing to social skills.

I think there are two main problems with trying to do a sequence on this:

  • I think that the problems that people have with social skills are more individualistic than the heuristics and biases that are normally discussed on this site. They are largely due to ingrained perspectival and strategical problems, which are in constrast, to say, the representativeness heuristic which we can all relate to. A consequence of this is that most people are going to find a lot of the content to not be applicable for them. I would guess that this problem could be overcome by creating more of a debug guide like if you have problems expressing yourself go to post 3 or you could also go meta and let people realize their own problems.
  • As you mention, it is important: “to have some ideas actionable”, but I think it is also especially important for these type of skills that they be easily able to be put into action and that there are opportunities available to easily put them into action. In this area, I would think that most of the ideas that would make an impact in people lives are not going to seem particularly insightful or revolutionary, in fact, they may at first appear to be incredibly obvious. It is only when they are put into practice that people come to recognize their importance. I would think that simulation of these skills is not as useful or as interesting as it is for the other content on this site.

And culminating with community building.

Something like this?

Comment by scottl on Open Thread April 4 - April 10, 2016 · 2016-04-07T11:56:10.577Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm exploring the following hypothesis : sometimes, you have to give up constructive actions for the sake of focus.

I would try to make the hypothesis a bit more concrete. Something like: flow, immersion and engagement are all important factors in productivity. An implication of this is: (your hypothesis here). You should of course look at the literature and explain what flow, engagement etc. is and how it relates to productivity.

If you want this to be interesting, then you should probably also try to find some implications that people normally don't think about because they're not strategic. Maybe, things like that you should: remove clutter, have the right perspective, exercise, practice, gamify things, learn how to beat akrasia, learn when its a good idea to relax etc.

The cfar class called turbo charging training which I described here seems to be related to your hypothesis . The underlying idea of it is the rule of intensity which states that the experience of intensity or effort that you are expending to learn something corresponds with the rate at which you are learning it.

Comment by scottl on Turning the Technical Crank · 2016-04-07T02:31:13.665Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This from here seems pretty accurate for Usenet:

Binary groups being a great big cost sink would be the main thing.

The store and forward protocol required quite some disk space at the time.

The network relied on "control" messages to create/delete groups automatically (as opposed to manual subscription), which due to the lack of authentication/encryption in the protocol, were very easy to spoof. A gpg-signing mechanism was later put into place, so that nodes peering with each other could establish a chain of trust by themselves. This was pretty nice in retrospect (and awesome by today standards), but the main problem is that creating new groups was a slow and painful approval-based process: people often wanted small groups just for themselves, and mailing lists offered the "same" without any approval required.

Having a large open network started to become a big attractor for SPAM, and managing SPAM in a P2P network without authentication is a harder problem to solve than a locally managed mailing list.

running a local server became so easy and cheap, that running mailing list offered local control and almost zero overhead. People that had niche groups started to create mailing lists with open access, and people migrated in flock. Why share your discussions in comp.programming.functional where you could create a mailing list just for your new fancy language? (it's pretty sad, because I loved the breadth of the discussions). Discussions on general groups became less frequent as most of the interesting ones were on dedicated mailing lists. The trend worsened significantly as forums started to appear, which lowered the barrier to entry to people that didn't know how to use a mail client properly.

For NNTP for LessWrong, I would think that we have to also take into account that people want to control how their content is displayed/styled. Their own separate blogs easily allow this.

Comment by scottl on Turning the Technical Crank · 2016-04-07T01:29:58.569Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

As far as I see it, there are 2 basic classes of solutions.

The first type of solution is something like reddit or Facebook's newsfeed which involves two concepts: linkposts which are links to or cross posts of outside content and normal posts which are hosted by the site itself. Making use of RSS or ATOM can automate the link posts.

The second type of solution is something like the Blogger API with extended functionality to allow you to access any content that has been posted using the API. Other things it would include would be, for example, the ability the list top pages based on some ranking system.

In the first type of solution, is a hub that provides links to or copies of outside content. Smooth integration of the comments and content hosted outside of this site would, I think, be hard to do. Searching of the linked content and handling permissions for it nicely would be difficult as well.

In the second type of solution is just another site in the LessWrong Sphere. The functionality of all the sites in this sphere would be driven by the API. You post and retrieve using the API which means that all posts and comments regardless of their origination sites can be available globally. Creating a prototype for this type of solution shouldn't be too hard either which is good.

So, that's Reddit with more freedom to set up custom CSS for subreddits? Or there are deeper differences?

The deeper difference is the elimination of linkposts. All content posted using the API can be retrieved using the API. It is not linked to. It is pulled from the one source using the API.

Comment by scottl on Turning the Technical Crank · 2016-04-06T06:12:35.388Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Is this a good summary of your argument?

NNTP was a great solution to a lot of the problems caused by mailing lists. The main ones being:

  • content duplication - mailing lists are bad because everyone gets their own copy of each article.
  • reduced content accessibility - mailing lists suck because you miss out on great articles if they were sent before you were part of the mailing list.

We are facing similar problems now. A lot of people have their own sites where they host their own content. We either miss out on great content if we don't trawl through a ton of different sites or we try to make lesswrong a central source for content and face problems with:

  • content duplication - through needing to cross post content (essentially duplicating it)
  • harder content accessibility - the alternative to cross posting is providing a link, but this is an annoying solution that can be jarring as you need to go to an entirely different site to access the content you want.

NNTP would solve the problems we have now in a similar way to how it solved the problems with mailing lists. That is, it would provide a central repository for content and a way to access this content.

I am currently thinking that the best way to think about the last point is that it means that we should set up a Web API similar to the Blogger Web API. Discussing NNTP, at least to me, is making the solution appear a lot more complicated than it needs to be. Although, I don't know much about NNTP, so I could be overlooking something very important and am interested about what your future posts will explore.

With a Less Wrong Web API, websites could be created that act like views in a database. They would show only the content from a particular group or author. This content would, of course, be styled according to the style rules on the website.

These websites could be free, dns name and web development costs aside, using services like github pages. This is because there should be no need for a back-end as the content and user information is all hosted on Less Wrong. You post, retrieve content and vote using the API. It should also be fairly easy to create more complicated websites that could aggregate and show posts based on user preferences or even to create mobile applications.

Comment by scottl on Consider having sparse insides · 2016-04-01T02:52:09.548Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think of identity as if it were a kind of 'thought groove' or as if it was similar to trampling a path in snow that others will naturally tend to follow. By this I mean that it tends to cause some types of thoughts to be activated and others to be attenuated. The stronger your identity the stronger this effect.

What we perceive, is largely a product of what we have been primed and conditioned to perceive. Our perception is shaped by our previous experiences and beliefs for it is filled with assumptions and predictions. Gaps which must be filled by drawing upon pre-existing information in our minds. Whether a certain argument feels right or whether a particular remark is funny to you will depend largely on who you are and what your identity is.

Identity can be a great way to get certain thoughts and ways of thinking down to the 5 second level. On the other hand, it is also a common way to embed and propagate harmful or unhelpful thoughts. The best strategy to deal with it in my opinion involves four things:

  • removing unhelpful identities, e.g. learned blankness.
  • embedding helpful and life affirming identities, e.g. growth mindset, trying new things, being a person who is compassionate and grateful
  • learning how to choose identities that can be adaptable. Retirees (especially men) commonly experience depression after giving up work because their identities were tied to it. The ones who avoid this trouble are the ones who are able to retain a sense of purpose after retirement. The identity: "I am a person who regularly exercises" is better than: "I am a runner" because it points to a larger class of possible activities. If you had a leg injury, you can still retain the first identity by weight lifting, for example, but there is no way for you to retain the second.
  • learning how to keep your identities fluid. It is much better in my opinion to allow your identities to remain in a state of flux rather than becoming cemented in your psyche. This is because there may come a time when you need to abandon an identity or amplify it or shrink it.
Comment by scottl on In Defence of Simple Ideas That Explain Everything But Are Wrong · 2016-03-25T02:25:55.371Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps, 'laws' would have been a better word than 'rules'.

I was thinking of it more in terms of complexity. When things are looked at in isolation, it is much easier to see how the simple laws apply. But as things get more complex, we also need to figure out how the different systems interact and influence each other. This makes the simple laws harder to discern.

Simple systems have few components and their behavior is in all respects fully understandable and predictable. An example would be a solid ball falling under the action of gravity through air. This simple system consists of the ball, the air, and the gravitational force. Here we usually assume a single ball, constant acceleration of gravity, a viscous drag on the ball, and Newton’s laws. When making these assumptions, we arrive at very useful answers. We did, however, neglect many aspects. If, for example, we would ask how the behavior changes when we go from one ball, to two, to three, or even more balls that fall close to each other, our “Simple System” assumption fails. It is not sufficient to generalize from one ball’s behavior to many. Instead we need to consider the interaction of the balls through their self‐generated vortices.

Comment by scottl on In Defence of Simple Ideas That Explain Everything But Are Wrong · 2016-03-23T06:43:32.688Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think that it would probably be a good idea to differentiate: ‘simple explanations’ and 'explanations that are based on simple rules'. See Fake Simplicity for a description of simple explanations. An example would be attributing all of the causality to some other entity, e.g. god. Explanations that are based on simple rules can sometimes also be easy to understand, but the way in which they are reached is rarely simple. They are grounded in extensive research and evidence.

Simple explanations can be dangerous because they are easy to believe. They are:

  • Easy to understand
  • Sometimes partly correct as they can be true some of the time even though they don’t describe the whole picture
  • Often overly broad so that they are hard to disprove
  • Etc.

I am just trying to saying that we should also be careful of simple explanations as well because they can be enticing. I would think that non-experts rarely have enough experience to reach explanations based on simple rules and will instead often just find simple explanations. This is because it is really hard or, perhaps, even impossible to find these simple rules without a lot of ground work. We often have to understand something intimately and deeply before we even begin to sense the undercurrent from the operation of these simple rules.

Here’s an extract from Feynman which is related:

The world is strange. The whole universe is very strange, but you see when you look at the details that the rules of the game are very simple – the mechanical rules by which you can figure out exactly what is going to happen when the situation is simple. It is like a chess game. If you are in a corner with only a few pieces involved, you can work out exactly what is going to happen, and you can always do that when there are only a few pieces. And yet in the real game there are so many pieces that you can't figure out what is going to happen – so there is a kind of hierarchy of different complexities. It is hard to believe. It is incredible! In fact, most people don't believe that the behavior of, say, me is the result of lots and lots of atoms all obeying very simple rules and evolving into such a creature that a billion years of life has produced. There is such a lot in the world. There is so much distance between the fundamental rules and the final phenomena that it is almost unbelievable that the final variety of phenomena can come from such a steady operation of such simple rules.

Comment by scottl on Open Thread March 21 - March 27, 2016 · 2016-03-23T00:47:39.917Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I tend to view depression as an evolved adaptation and a certain state which it is natural for humans to move into in certain situations. I think that it can be helpful to recognize that dysphoria, sadness and grief are all natural reactions. It is ok to be sad. Although, like with all conditions if it becomes chronic or persists for an overly long time then you should probably get some help to deal with it. See here for more information.

For general advice for dealing with grief, see this article and apply whatever you think is applicable or would be helpful. Excerpt:

  • Establish a simple routine
    • Regular meal and bed times
  • Increase pleasant events
  • Promote self-care activities
    • Regular medical check-ups
    • Daily exercise
    • Limited alcohol intake
  • Provide information about grief and what to expect
    • Grief is unique and follows a wave-like pattern
    • Grief is not an illness with a prescribed cure
    • Children benefit from being included and learning that grief is a normal response to loss
  • Compartmentalise worries
    • List the things that are worrying
    • Create a ‘to-do’ list, prioritise and tick off items as they are completed
    • Use different coloured folders for the paperwork that needs to be finalised
  • Prepare to face new or difficult situations
    • Graded exposure to situations that are difficult or avoided
    • Plan for the ‘firsts’ such as the first anniversary of the death – How do you want it to be acknowledged? Who do you want to share it with?
    • Adopt a ‘trial and error’ approach; be prepared to try things more than once
  • Challenge unhelpful thinking
    • Encourage identification of thoughts leading to feelings of guilt and anger
    • Gently ask the following questions – What would your loved one tell you to do if they were here now? What are the alternatives to what you thought? Where is the evidence for what you thought?
  • Provide a structured decision-making framework to deal with difficult decisions e.g., When to sort through belongings? Whether to take off the wedding ring? Whether to move or not?

    • Base decisions on evidence, not emotions
    • Avoid making major, irreversible decisions for 12 months to prevent decisions being based on emotion
    • Identify the problem and possible solutions
    • List the positives and negatives for each potential solution
    • Determine the consequences for each solution – can they be lived with?

    I guess, and it sucks. I've been regretting not valuing him more during his peak health, as well, although maybe I'd always feel guilty for anything short of having been perfect.

I would try to stop doing this. It will gnaw at you and we can always find something that we could have done better in the past. The better thing to do is learn from the past, appreciate it and experience, to the utmost, what is happening now.

Comment by scottl on Unofficial Canon on Applied Rationality · 2016-03-19T13:35:55.616Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The moon. This is either really important or completely meaningless, I don't know because I'm not there yet.

I prefer the concept of Fingerspitzengefühl (finger tips feeling) which basically means having an intuitive grasp of a situation and being able to zero in on the accurate region of the problem without wasteful consideration of a large range of unfruitful, alternative diagnoses and solutions. The mechanism behind this is probably similar to how we learn physical patterns.

Expert piano player’s movements largely happen automatically or intuitively. That is, without conscious thought. This happens due to their extensive practice and because of concepts like chunking, spreading activation and hebbian learning. I would guess that we also learn psychical (thought) patterns through a similar mechanism.

I would at least change the word "CFAR" to "applied rationality"

Thanks for your suggestion. I removed the CFAR from the title.

I'm going to try to write what would have convinced "Jacobian-2015" that he should attend a workshop.

There are two extra things that my post isn’t good at conveying.

  • Depth in the material. For example, goal factoring I have a paragraph on this and, I guess, that it describes the concept, but it would take a whole other post to describe how to use it in practice.
  • A framework. The post just describes the techniques, but it doesn’t really describe the underlying mechanisms of how they work or how they relate to each other. In practice, the techniques would rarely be used in isolation, but would instead be combined.

I'm really concerned that this write-up may cause some people to decide against attending a workshop they otherwise would've gone to.

My intent was never for this post to be used as a replacement to attending CFAR. My goal was to put the material out there so that there was some base material upon which I could expand.

Comment by scottl on Genetic "Nature" is cultural too · 2016-03-18T15:50:54.474Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If anyone is interested in twin studies or trait heritability, they should look at this site.

Comment by scottl on Unofficial Canon on Applied Rationality · 2016-03-17T11:07:28.774Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

this is essentially why John Boyd preferred presentations over manuals when running his reform movement in the US military.

It's strange that you mention John Boyd because, to be honest, I was thinking of him when I decided to post the material. I don’t believe that John’s preference for presentations over documentation was a good one. In general, I oppose obscurity and restriction of information although there are times that I don’t, e.g. when it’s from a lack of resources or an extremely short material turnover rate etc. In regards, to John Boyd’s stuff, personally, I know that I had to waste a lot of time wading through a lot of simplistic and pretty useless information (pretty much just the simple OODA loop stuff) to understand his material. I believe that this is his only published paper. Also, it was only really the Osinga thesis which has allowed me to understand his ideas. Although, I do need to go over it again.

This is particularly true when you're worried about the processes you want to encourage getting stuck as a fixed doctrine

Wouldn’t most of these issues would be avoided if you gave some warning that the material is in flux and versioned it as well. So, you had a CFAR material version 1, version 2 etc. Also, doesn’t it seem a bit weird to give the potential of the information becoming a doctrine enough weight that it causes the restriction of this information? It seems weird to me since the skills that CFAR and Boyd are/were trying to teach are in large part about breaking out of fixed doctrines. It’s kind of like stopping someone from learning martial arts because you don’t want them to get hurt while training.

Comment by scottl on Request for advice: high school transferring · 2016-03-02T12:24:30.038Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I will now explain some practical techniques that I would give someone in your position. It looks like you have already implemented some of them. FYI I haven’t provided much background on any of the techniques, so if you want any more information on any of the mentioned techniques check out my post on the CFAR material as well.

Value Awareness

  • Reframe the situation to find hidden values. You can do this, for example, by asking: “If I was already at the public school would the choice to switch to the private school be just as hard”. If there is a difference, then analysing why can often reveal hidden values.
  • Use goal factoring to find hidden values. This entails finding some alternate set of actions through which you could get what you want cheaper and then analysing why you don’t choose to go with the cheaper option. For example, boarding at the school would resolve move of the problems you have, e.g. travelling and not having enough social time with the other students. I don’t know if this is an option, but if it is and you don’t want to do it then the reason for this should be in your considered valuations.
  • Find out which aspects of the choice are cruxes. You can do this by creating a list of the valuable or aversive things related to the two choices and then eliminating one of them at a time to see if the choice you would make is significantly altered. If it is, then you have found a crux.
  • Reference class hopping. Try and think about if your choice ever wavers. That is, if there are moments when you really want to change schools. If this happens, then it indicates that there may be some large underlying issue that is prompting the desired change. An example might be that your desire to change schools spikes when you are feeling excluded, like you are not part of the clique or like you can’t connect deeply with anyone at the school. A large underlying issue, in my opinion, indicates a problem that you should at least try to resolve before making any drastic decisions.

Prediction Accuracy

  • Take an outside view. Can you find anyone who has made the same choice already?
  • Trial the change to see what it will actually be like. This is probably not applicable for your situation, but it is normally one of the first things to look into.


It can often be good to spend most of your effort on thinking about how to fix existing problems rather than moving to a whole new situation. It is common for people to not think about or to underestimate the costs involved with change. In your case, example costs would be having to get to know the new teachers and students in the public school. An example of fixing a problem could be seeing if it is possible to set up a math club at your private school.

  • Think through all the cruxes that you figured out earlier and try to come up with as many solutions as you can that would deal with those cruxes. For example, instead of taking the trip to the private school each day you can look into boarding at the school. Once you have come up with these strategies you can take a much more intricate approach to the choice, perhaps, employing multiple strategies to deal with different aspects relating to the choice.
  • Get the advice of others especially those who can relate and are close to the problem, e.g. teachers, parents, friends etc. Be sure not to present the solution as a false dilemma, i.e. to change schools or not. Instead try to explain the situation as fully as possible. This could involve going through all the cruxes and the strategies you have come up with the resolve them. There are two extra benefits to this as well:
    1. It can often help you come up with a solution that should have been obvious. This is because there is difference between thinking you have fully understood a problem and being able to fully explain it to another person.
    2. It allows you to see the problem from a different perspective. It can, at times, be easy to miss the ramifications for other people of the choices that we make.
Comment by scottl on Request for advice: high school transferring · 2016-03-02T12:22:30.637Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I will describe this first in an abstract way and then in a child comment I will describe some practical techniques that I think might help.

When facing a tough choice, it is important that you are as strong as possible in the following areas:

  • Value awareness, i.e. that you have a full understanding of all the things that would impact your choice. People tend to neglect or not include certain things in their deliberations like being scared of change, for example, because either they don’t think about them or they don’t want to admit that they matter. You don’t want do this. If something is impacting your choice, then it should be included in your considerations.
  • Prediction accuracy, i.e. that you have a correct understanding of how valuable each choice will actually be once it is made and in the future as well. In most instances it is possible for us to improve upon our innate and intuitive predictions.
  • Agency, i.e. that you are fully aware of all of the moves and choices that you can make. You should be careful to avoid the false dilemma. As an example, let’s imagine someone wants to leave their job because even though they love it they have some major issues with a person at their work. This situation should not be framed as a choice between leaving their job or not, but as a problem in which leaving their job is one of many potential solutions. Even though the person may think at first that leaving their job is the only option, on deeper analysis they may find other better and less drastic strategies that they could follow to alleviate the problems with the person at their work.
Comment by scottl on Rationality Reading Group: Part U: Fake Preferences · 2016-02-28T02:15:44.577Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

They are mentioned on the wiki FAQ page which has some other useful links as well. If you want to go over all the LW concepts and topics, then you might find this page that I wrote a while ago to be useful. It provides a list of concise definitions for most of the LW concepts.

Comment by scottl on Open Thread Feb 22 - Feb 28, 2016 · 2016-02-25T12:14:55.718Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Where could I find a large corpus of people having real conversations, preferably followed over a long term?

This seems pretty good.

I was wondering a, if people tend to fall into some category more than others b, if there are more such categories c, if overemphasis on one behavior is a significant factor of mine, (and presumably others') social skill deficit

It's probably not that useful to think about this in terms of categories. It would be better to think about what makes a conversation great and to find out what is missing when you end up 'just chilling out'.

Let me know what you perceive to be the difference in your conversations that work and the ones in which you end up just chilling out.

Here’s some background information to help you out with that. Conversations are a type of speech exchange system that involves turn taking. When you are having your turn, i.e. speaking, this is referred to as holding the conversational floor. A conversation that progresses past the initial stage, referred to as small talk, will have longer turns in which the content is free flowing and natural. One of the main things that differentiate conversation from other speech systems like interviews is that the turns are best when they are somewhat balanced. Conversations thrive when the turns are natural, build on previous turns and allow multiple avenues for future turns.

Based on what you have said, I would presume that your conversations that don't work tend to involve short turns as you keep asking them questions and they give short answers. When conversations sag and die, it will most likely be because of minimal responses, i.e. short turns, and no free information that the other person can use to take a future turn. In fact, this is how almost all conversations end. That is, with the exchange of ritualistic small turns, e.g. “Ok, cya” -> “Yeh, bye”

In general, I think that a good conversationalist is someone who is good at doing conversational work which is all about ensuring that the conversation will continue and that the turns will become more expansive and natural. Some aspects of conversational work include:

  • Asking questions (preferably open ones which lead to longer turns or follow up questions which show that you’re listening and care)
  • Providing answers
  • Introducing new topics
  • Picking up topics
  • Telling good stories
  • Helping good stories
  • Helping others to be able to ask you questions, i.e. offering lots of free information. For example, if asked what do you do then it is good if you can provide enough information to allow them to expand on what you have said. Don't just tell them your role, but tell them what you do day to day and why you love it, or don't.
Comment by scottl on Unofficial Canon on Applied Rationality · 2016-02-19T11:10:40.779Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks. I appreciate your input. I have updated the post and I think that should have fixed the issues you have described.

Comment by scottl on Less Wrong Karma Chart Website · 2016-02-18T11:57:52.557Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You are probably right. I would assume that I can also get the post information from this: . A graph with this much data probably wouldn't be useful as it would be too busy. I will look into writing something else to get this data into a usable format.

Edit: Your link only has the main comments, not the discussion ones. I'm not sure what to get all the comment information from.

Comment by scottl on Less Wrong Karma Chart Website · 2016-02-18T11:29:50.223Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'd recommend adding the year to the timestamp, instead of making me read it off the x-axis.


I also did the cumulative chart. I will think about allowing the user to set the dates that are shown on the cumulative chart. It would start with the first comment/post and end with the last, but it would allow you to change the start or end dates if you want.

Comment by scottl on Less Wrong Karma Chart Website · 2016-02-18T11:26:41.217Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I combined the above suggestions. While it is scraping the data, it now also has a table showing the last scraped elements posted date, the number of items scraped and the scraped score. This is split into two rows one for comments and one for posts.

Comment by scottl on Less Wrong Karma Chart Website · 2016-02-18T11:16:21.973Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is this purely client-side?

Yes. I hosted it in Github Pages because it's free. The down side is that it only serves static content.. I might be able to use something like firebase, but I don't really want to. I will see how easy it is to create a link that allows you to download the data to a csv file.

Comment by scottl on Less Wrong Karma Chart Website · 2016-02-18T10:56:46.615Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think so. See Vaniver's comment which describes what the site is doing. I don't know the process, but maybe you can submit a DB request to the trike apps team for this data.

Comment by scottl on Unofficial Canon on Applied Rationality · 2016-02-16T13:11:34.622Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

CFAR has all of this material readily available likely in a much more comprehensive and accurate format.

My assumption was that they don't have this because of time and effort constraints as well as other priorities.

I highly value CFAR as an organisation. I want them to be highly funded and want as many people to attend their workshops as possible. It would upset me to learn that someone had read my compilation and not attended a workshop thinking they had gotten most of the value they could.

The CFAR team are valuable because they are practitioners, experimenters and pioneers, not because of their techniques. That is, they are not valuable because they are hoarding potentially valuable information, but because they are at the frontier and are able to teach their material extremely well. The important question is does my material or yours help with improving the art of rationality and peoples understanding of it. I still think it does, but In retrospect, I think that I should have made it clearer that trying to learn this material by yourself is probably a bad idea.

Comment by scottl on Unofficial Canon on Applied Rationality · 2016-02-16T13:00:42.499Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Point 1 (It's hard to learn) - I agree. I have added a warning at the top of the post which should help with this problem Point 2 (corruption) - I don't think this post can be in anyway be a substitute for the workshops, but I think it can still have value as a base or glossary. It is definitely doesn't provide a kind of framework or common thread of understanding which I think you seem to be saying is very important. Point 3 (idea inoculation) - isn't this problem (Having seen crappy, distorted versions of the CFAR curriculum) resolved if you check the post to make that what I am saying is accurate and true to what CFAR actually teaches.This one (having attempted to absorb it from text, and failed) may be a reason for me to retract this post, however. Let me know what you think.

Overall. I respect your caution, but I don't think that having some potential misinformation is as bad as you make it seem. At least if we're careful.

There will always be obvious benefits to attending an intensive, collaborative workshop with instructors who know what they're doing, and there will always be people who recognize that the value is worth the cost, particularly given our track record.

I agree with this which I think was your overall point.

Comment by scottl on Less Wrong Karma Chart Website · 2016-02-16T10:38:31.906Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I moved the main posts into a separate chart.. It should be less confusing now.

Comment by scottl on Less Wrong Karma Chart Website · 2016-02-16T10:36:15.895Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Pressing enter with the box focused didn't start the scraping. I had to click 'go'.


I'd put main and discussion upvotes on the same scale. (So the 'main' y-axis is just 10 times the 'discussion/comment' y-axis.) Right now they don't even have zero in the same place, which is really weird. Maybe also make the scale nonlinear.

I moved main into a separate graph. This should fix the issues.

It's hard to click-and-drag over the whole width or height of the chart.

I could change it so that you can only zoom in on the yaxis like it is here.

I'm not sure how easy this would be, but I'd appreciate a distinction between meetups and non-meetups. (But I think some meetups are in main and some are in discussion.)

Maybe I will look at that later.

I'd like more context on posts/comments without having to visit them. For posts, the title; for comments, maybe the title of the attached post plus a few words (like in the sidebar). It might be too noisy to put that in the hover box; if so, perhaps if I click, the hover box expands and stays there until the next click, and includes an actual link?

I have updated this. Try it out and let me know what you think.

You don't actually display total karma anywhere. I had to get it from positive-negative on the pie chart.

I fixed the total chart to have title that shows the total score.

The pie chart doesn't have a slice for 'neutral'.

The pie chart is meant to show the total score. Since neutral has 0 score I don't think it should be in the graph.

I'd also be interested in seeing cumulative karma as a time series

Would that be something like this with the total score moving up and down over time. I would do this by ordering the comment/post scores by their dates.

and 30-day karma as a time series.

Would this be similar to the cumulative chart above, but just for 30 days.

Comment by scottl on Open thread, Feb. 01 - Feb. 07, 2016 · 2016-02-02T01:44:12.160Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know Ruby, but I think that your code doesn't work properly. It will count the karma score for every comment on the comments page. This includes the comment that you are replying to. I believe that you should have checked the author name somewhere before you added to the karma HashMap.

Comment by scottl on Open thread, Feb. 01 - Feb. 07, 2016 · 2016-02-01T12:17:09.194Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If there is not, then I can create something on github pages that should do this. It should be fairly simple to do and would just involve scraping the data in the[specifiedUser]/comments/ pages. I think this is the only way to do it. Let me know what you want and I will look into it. I could probably also include your posts karma and allow you to check how your karma score changes over time.

Comment by scottl on Open thread, Jan. 25 - Jan. 31, 2016 · 2016-01-31T11:11:15.732Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The book sounds good. I think ultimately there are two things that are important here: the first is teaching her about botany and the second is to instill and build on her drive to want to learn the material or more broadly a problem solving/curious mindset. In my opinion, the second one is more important.

Two pieces of advice:

  • Forget about the structure. Just think about setting up an environment that will let her explore, play and teach herself. The book is a good start. Maybe, a plant for her room would be a good idea.
  • Explore with her. The best thing you can do, I reckon, is to take her outside and explore with her. I don’t know much about Botany, but I think it would be cool, as an example, if you picked up a flower and pointed out to her that most people are born with two arms and then asked: “So, would that mean that the amount of petals on this type of flower will all be the same”. Then, no matter what she says you can go to a group of the flowers and let her count the amount of petals to see if they’re the same. Then, you can ask another question: are the buds the same etc.
Comment by scottl on The art of grieving well · 2015-12-16T11:14:08.323Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It looks to me like it's possible to resist grief, at least to some extent. I think people do it all the time. And I think it's an error to do so.

It is only an error if it continues on too long. Avoidance in most circumstances is a natural and innate part of the process of dealing with grief.

Avoidance is sometimes an adaptive strategy in coping with adversity and sometimes maladaptive. In the case of bereavement, experiential avoidance usually plays a role in facilitating the healing process. The emotional pain associated with new information that a loved one has died is so severe that people need time interspersed with periods of respite in order to be able to fully acknowledge the unwanted reality. Respite can be achieved using cognitive avoidance, and sometimes by also avoiding contact with triggers of emotion. When avoidance is used adaptively, it facilitates processing of the painful information as well as restoration of the capacity for a satisfying ongoing life. As processing and restoration are achieved, the need for avoidance diminishes and the strategy must be relinquished. If it is not, or if avoidance is over-used in the wake of bereavement, the strategy can backfire. Processing difficult information is impeded rather than facilitated and acute grief is prolonged. (Shear, p. 357)


I could instead turn my mind to the pain, and look at it in exquisite detail.

This sounds potentially dangerous to me. You could easily retraumatize yourself or deepen your grief by doing this. It is probably best to try to do this when with someone else and also not too early in the grief process. This does not mean that you should never do this, however, as this is something that has to happen eventually.

The feelings from grief have an undulating or wave like motion. There will be times where you can face your feeling and times when you cannot. This is totally fine. It does, however, become important as more time progresses for you to make sense of the loss and find benefit in it, which fortunately often becomes easier as time progresses:

Those who were able to make sense of their loss typically did so by seeing the death as predictable or as a natural condition of life or by suggesting that the death was comprehensible within the context of their religious or spiritual beliefs. On the other hand, those who were able to find benefit in the experience tended to report that they had learned something important from it, about themselves (e.g., that they had the strength to cope with the adversity), about others (e.g., the value of family and relationships), or about the meaning of life (e.g., learned what is important in life). (Davis, C.G., Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Larson, J. p.570)


I think the first three so-called "stages of grief"

I don’t think these stages are currently accepted anymore as they are seen to be too rigid. See here for some recent developments on the understanding of grief and bereavement.

It required a choice, every moment, to keep my focus on what hurt rather than on how much it hurt or how unfair things were or any other story that decreased the pain I felt in that moment. And it was tiring to make that decision continuously.

I think the power from this actually comes from the perspective that you are taking on the loss rather than the simple fact that you are thinking about it. For example, I think there was a big benefit from not thinking about how unfair it was.

In summary, I think your post is describing something that should happen in the later stages of the grief process. It might also not be suited for people with avoidant attachment styles. There is no doubt that they are some ways to do it better than others, for example this looks pretty good. My opinion, though, is that if you were trying to find out how to handle grief well, then it would be more important to look at things like what your strategies are: to handle it, to seek help from others for it, to compartmentalise it, to challenge the unhelpful thinking it will induce etc. See here for more.

P.S. can you please add a summary break somewhere in your post.

Comment by scottl on Group Rationality Diary, Dec. 1-13, 2015 · 2015-12-12T23:53:20.407Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This sounds awesome and it looks like it is helping you to become less wrong. I have a couple questions. In summary, the idea that it is implemented with word documents sounds cumbersome to me. I wonder if there is a better way to do it:

  • have you looked into any apps that could do what you are doing with a collection of word documents? If you have, then what is different about your system than the other existing apps.
  • What would a perfect app implementation be of your Value management system?
  • have you done much research to create this system because it sounds like the above would be good for a main post if you have. I would like to know about what your set of filters are and what you mean by the framework to set up more frameworks.
Comment by scottl on Why startup founders have mood swings (and why they may have uses) · 2015-12-11T13:35:13.310Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think this is a good point. Despair, which I see as perceived hopelessness, originates in an individual and so it depends on how that individual perceives the situation. Perception is not like receiving a reflection of the world in the mind. It is like meshing together the neural activity from percepts with the existing neural activity ongoing in the brain. The result is that it is context dependent. It is affected by priming and emotions, for example.

I think the advice in this post, essentially embrace despair, isn't probably that helpful. What do you think about this advice: "Notice despair for it is a signal of hopelessness. It indicates that you may be stuck in a mental rut or that the way that you are viewing a situation may be inducing unnecessary anxiety. In summary, it tells you to rethink how you are trying to solve the problem that you are facing. The first thing you should do is check that it is real. Get advice and talk to others about it. Try to get out of your head. Also, try and find out if it is misattributed. It may be due to low blood sugar or anxiety spilling over from other parts of your life, for example. If you have done this and now know that the despair is real, i.e. resulting from a complex problem that matters to you and that you can't solve, then try to understand the problem you are facing and your plan to solve it. Once you are happy with the plan then you can embrace the incoming depression. Do not view it as anathema, but instead as your body's mechanism to move you into the necessary focused and analytical state that you need to be in to be able to solve the complex problem that you are facing".

Comment by scottl on Why startup founders have mood swings (and why they may have uses) · 2015-12-11T12:51:08.541Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Melancholia, mania and severe depression might be a bit different, but with normal episodes I think the upswing is when you are solving problems without issues. The turning point at the top is when you come across a complex problem which matters to you and that you are unable to solve. The downswing and slide into depression is your body’s way of moving into a kind of analytical mode. Like fever is induced to fight infection, depression is induced to fight despair. I think that despair is separate to the depression. It is the perceived lack of control over negative events, we often call it hopelessness. Depression, on the other hand, is the induced state of mind.

The reason why such mood swings as you describe might happen with startup founders, for example, is that they face complex problems that they care deeply about and that have high social costs if they fail at them. The idea I am presenting here gets to be quite complicated in practice because the cause of the depression is the perceived complexity of the problem, perceived ability to solve it and perceived social costs with failing. These all depend on the perceiver and we don't see the world as it is, we see they world as we are. It is possible that someone might slide into depression because of misttributed emotions, wrong beliefs etc.

Depression might also be too strong a word. Perhaps, 'sad' is better. I don't know. I am referring to 'depression' as the down ward sections in your mood swings figure.

I am basing what I wrote above on my understanding of this paper which posits that depression is an evolved stress response mechanism. This claim makes sense if you believe the broaden and build theory. The paper makes the following claims

  1. Complex Problems Trigger Depressed Affect. The analytical rumination (AR) hypothesis proposes that depressed affect is triggered by problems: (1) that are complex (analytically difficult); and (2) that affected fitness in evolutionary environments. [...] One effect of sad or depressed mood is to promote an analytical reasoning style in which greater attention is paid to detail and information is processed more slowly, methodically, thoroughly, and in smaller chunks [...] Complex social problems may be the primary evolutionarily relevant trigger of depression in human beings
  2. Depression coordinates a suite of changes in body systems that promote rumination, the evolved function of which is to analyze the triggering problem. [...]Analysis is time consuming and requires sustained processing, so it is susceptible to disruption, which interferes with problem-solving. Depression induces changes in body systems, producing effects that facilitate analytical rumination by reducing disruption [...]Specifically, depressed affect: (1) activates neurological mechanisms that promote attentional control, which gives problem-related information prioritized access to limited processing resources and makes depressive rumination intrusive, persistent, resistant to distraction, and difficult to suppress; (2) induces anhedonia, which reduces the desire to think about and engage in hedonic activities that could disrupt problem-related processing; and (3) promotes psychomotor changes that reduce exposure to stimuli that could disrupt processing (e.g., desire for social isolation, loss of appetite).
  3. Over evolutionary time, depressive rumination often helped people solve the problems that triggered their episodes [...] Like fever, then, the impairments associated with depression are usually the outcome of adaptive tradeoffs rather than disorder. For instance, because processing resources are limited, a decreased ability to concentrate on other things is a necessary tradeoff that has to be made in order to sustain analysis of a complex, depressogenic problem The fourth claim is that depression reduces accuracy on laboratory tasks because depressive rumination takes up limited processing resources [...]In summary, studies of clinical, subclinical, and experimentally induced depression all show that when given a laboratory task, depressed people ruminate about other things, which takes up limited cognitive resources and interferes with their ability to perform well on the task. It is therefore illegitimate to conclude that depression generally impairs problem-solving from studies showing reduced performance on laboratory tasks. They have nothing to say about how successful depressed people are in solving the problems that they are ruminating about.

    In summary, we hypothesize that depression is a stress response mechanism: (1) that is triggered by analytically difficult problems that influence important fitness-related goals; (2) that coordinates changes in body systems to promote sustained analysis of the triggering problem, otherwise known as depressive rumination; (3) that helps people generate and evaluate potential solutions to the triggering problem; and (4) that makes tradeoffs with other goals in order to promote analysis of the triggering problem, including reduced accuracy on laboratory tasks. Collectively, we refer to this suite of claims as the analytical rumination (AR) hypothesis.

Comment by scottl on LessWrong 2.0 · 2015-12-04T05:47:55.122Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I don't see why you should shutdown the rest of the site to do this. What's the benefit of not having a discussion section or restricting the total number of posts? The problem as I see it has nothing to do with the total number of posts, but with the fact that there are not many high quality posts. In regards to your second point, couldn't you just do something similar with the existing promoted section. It should be fairly easy to set up an email address for people to submit potential promoted worthy posts and a group of reviewers who will review, select and post one article a week.

Comment by scottl on Making My Peace with Belief · 2015-12-04T05:13:35.375Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I predict pushback -- LW won't like that idea one little bit :-)

That claim seems totally fine to me. Inaccurate maps can still be useful, sometimes even more useful than more accurate maps as they can be simpler to use and easier to create. I wrote about that here.

Incorrect maps can also sometimes be useful. Examples of this are adaptive biases like the sexual over perception bias in men. From a truth-maximization perspective young men who assume that all women want them are showing severe social-cognitive inaccuracies, judgment biases, and probably narcissistic personality disorder. However, from an evolutionary perspective, the same young men are behaving in a more optimal manner. One which has consistently maximized the reproductive success of their male ancestors. Another similar example is the bias for positive perception of partners.

Comment by scottl on Why startup founders have mood swings (and why they may have uses) · 2015-12-01T12:27:11.810Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There’s a version of you that is good at moving forward—that has the energy to pour seventy hours a week into your current best guesses, stretching the parts of your model that are correct as far as they can go. And there’s a version of you that is good at dealing with the darker side of reality—that is actually willing to consider the possibility that it’s all garbage, instead of just paying lip service to the idea.

Interesting idea, but it looks like you are talking solely about the rising and falling sections here. I personally think that the most pertinent parts are instead the peaks and the troughs. What happens in those particular moments and what types of subsequent falling and rising sections do they require or are the best?

Perhaps, the trough must be preceded by the falling section, not only because old models are discarded there, but also because it is the best place for truly innovative discoveries to occur. It is where arousal is minimal and introspection/inhibition/rumination is maximised. The trough and subsequent rising section, then, is where you make use of the new ideas or paradigms that you have discovered.

Comment by scottl on Systems Theory Terms · 2015-11-26T12:43:19.482Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I rewrote that section, but I meant it like the upper-level properties of a system (where people drive, for example, are determined by its lower level properties (roads).

Comment by scottl on Systems Theory Terms · 2015-11-26T12:39:55.641Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I rewrote that section.

Comment by scottl on Systems Theory Terms · 2015-11-26T12:38:02.585Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

FYI I am not going to be doing this because:

  1. Wikipedia has a list.
  2. I don't think the time spent trying to create one sentence descriptions would help me to understand the terms better. They would help me memorize them, but that isn't my goal.
Comment by scottl on [Link] Less Wrong Wiki article with very long summary of Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow · 2015-11-23T02:07:45.322Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I would recommend that you change the formatting to be the following: ' list item', '* sublist item', '==header item==' and '===subheader item==='.

Comment by scottl on Systems Theory Terms · 2015-11-21T04:50:18.715Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think of it more like a particular lens from which to view problems, i.e. it is an alternative to reductionism. But, perhaps it's most useful aspect is that it allows the development of techniques which can be used to simulate complex systems. Ludwig von Bertalanff described the set of theories that together comprise the framework of systems thought in the following passage:

Now we are looking for another basic outlook on the world -- the world as organization. Such a conception -- if it can be substantiated -- would indeed change the basic categories upon which scientific thought rests, and profoundly influence practical attitudes. This trend is marked by the emergence of a bundle of new disciplines such as cybernetics, information theory, general system theory, theories of games, of decisions, of queuing and others; in practical applications, systems analysis, systems engineering, operations research, etc. They are different in basic assumptions, mathematical techniques and aims, and they are often unsatisfactory and sometimes contradictory. They agree, however, in being concerned, in one way or another, with "systems," "wholes" or "organizations"; and in their totality, they herald a new approach. Quoted from: Systems Theories: Their Origins, Foundations, and Development

If you want to deep dive into complex systems, I found this to be useful.

Comment by scottl on Systems Theory Terms · 2015-11-21T03:26:07.257Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don’t think this: “All possible subgroups of elements also have the first two properties” is the same as “All possible subgroups of elements can themselves be considered systems and so must have the first two properties”, which it looks like you are reading it as. This means that rule 2: “Each element is affected by at least one other element in the system” says that the subgroup of elements you have selected can be affected by an element that is in the system, but not in the subgroup of elements you have selected.

For example, imagine that the corners in this square represented four elements and the lines the relations between them.

As per my understanding of the rules, this is a system. The first two rules are obviously true. If you look at the third one with the elements on the left side of the square, then the two selected elements don’t have any relations to each other, but they do have relations to other elements in the system. So, I believe that this passes the rule.

Ackoff talks a little more about it here.

A system is a set of interrelated elements. Thus a system is an entity which is composed of at least two elements and a relation that holds between each of its elements and at least one other element in the set. Each of a system’s elements is connected to every other element, directly or indirectly. Furthermore, no subset of elements is unrelated to any other subset. (Ackoff, 1971, p. 662)

Comment by scottl on Rationality Reading Group: Part N: A Human's Guide to Words · 2015-11-20T12:30:11.773Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I am reading Korzybski's Science and Sanity

FYI eliezer recommended language in thought and action over Science and Sanity.

So... maybe we should update our language to represent correctly our current scientific knowledge? And maybe that would remove a few unconscious obstacles, and thus make us all a bit more rational? (Don't ask me how to do that specifically. I haven't finished reading the book yet.)

The whorfian hypothesis states that our perception of reality is determined by our thought processes, which are influenced by the language we use. In this way language shapes our reality and tells us how to think about and respond to that reality. Generally, the Whorfian hypothesis is seen as too extreme and it makes more sense to talk about the question of linguistic relativity in terms of degree instead of absoluteness or determinism. But, the hypothesis is not totally wrong either. Language plays a role in shaping our thoughts and in modifying our perception. So, I suppose changing the language might help. The thing with language, though, is that it is many ways a product of the people who use it. Through use it evolves and changes. So, I think you have it the wrong way around. Controlling or tampering with the language that people use is going to be very hard, but once you change people's paradigms then this will flow into the language and it will change naturally .

On a related note, I would suspect that quantum theory would be easier for people to comprehend if we had a more native american world view. There is book called Blackfoot Physics around this idea.

Comment by scottl on Open thread, Nov. 16 - Nov. 22, 2015 · 2015-11-17T23:15:58.966Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think we should get rid of "main" and "promoted" .

Do you think that “main” is a bad idea or that we should get rid of “main” because it hasn’t had much content for a while?

I personally like the concept of “main” because from a site mechanics point of view with its (10x) karma it indicates that less wrong promotes and prioritizes longer, multi-post and referenced material, which is the type of material I am more interested in.

Comment by scottl on Open thread, Nov. 16 - Nov. 22, 2015 · 2015-11-17T00:36:32.836Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What do people think of the “When should I post in Discussion, and when should I post in Main?” section in the FAQ?

I find myself looking less and less in Main because I don’t see much content in there besides the meetup posts. I have a suggestion which might improve this and that is to update the FAQ so that it encourages reposting highly voted content in discussion into Main. This would have couple of benefits:

  • It would allow the potential main articles to go through a process of vetting. It would be suggested that only highly voted (15 karma or more, maybe) posts should be reposted in Main.
  • The post in discussion can be improved based on the provided comments before it is reposted to main
  • The comments from the draft version of the article in discussion can be discarded
  • It would allow double visibility for better posts, where better is decided by their karma level.
  • This would just be a suggestion in the FAQ. Anyone can still post in Main straight away if that is desired.

The problems I see with moving the post from discussion to main once it is highly voted is that:

  • I think there might be a bug where the extra karma from the difference in discussion vs Main doesn’t go towards your total karma, but does go towards your monthly karma.
  • If there is revision in the post, the comments are still there from the old version of the post.